Editor’s note: all Contributing Scholars begin writing by answering the following question as their first post: Why are you committed to building relationships with those from different religious or ethical traditions? Their answer to this question is below.
As a child and youth, I participated actively in the United Methodist Church. In my twenties, I began to see another side of their story- their lack of acceptance of LGBT individuals. This led me away from faith for awhile. I never stopped believing in God, but I did stop going to church. I went on a religious journey, that started in the UU faith. While in seminary, I was invited to a Tu B’Shevat Seder at a transdenominational synagogue. Entering this ceremony, I felt at peace for the first time in a long time. I had to explore it, and did. I spent the next couple years exploring Judaism, taking a class with the URJ, observing Shabbat, and attending reform synagogues. I was drawn to Judaism’s way of being. My friends taught me that Judaism is all about learning. I learned a bit of Hebrew, learned about the seasons, and was impressed by the Jewish faith’s way of celebrating all of the seasons of life.
While I was exploring, I came upon Old South Church in downtown Boston. I started attending the evening services, as I worked at a Unitarian Universalist Religious Education program in the mornings. I enjoyed it greatly, as it was a quiet and meditative service. I enjoyed the church’s philosophy. I participated in a young adult group and, when I could, attended a morning service. Their “God is Still Speaking” campaign spoke to me deeply, after leaving the UMC for their stances. It was an interreligious journey- UU in the morning, UCC in the evening, Judaism on Fridays and Saturdays. I learned so much during this prodigal time and am so grateful for it.
This past year, I began to realize I still identified as Christian, and joined a UCC church. However, I am endlessly grateful for my time spent in Judaism. It made me who I am today, and brought me back to religion in a way nothing else could. God knows our hearts, and what we need. I needed this journey, and it is why I am committed to interreligious work.
We have so much to learn from each other, but if we stay in our silos, we will never be transformed by confronting the “others”- or other faiths. I still have so much to learn about other faiths. Yoga teacher training is something I will be doing this year. It will teach me about another belief system. I will take a class in Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Relations this winter. It will teach me about Islam for the first time- I still have so much to learn about this faith. I plan to be involved in a Children of Abraham interreligious group in the Binghamton area this spring. It will teach me more.
I hope to never stop learning. As a Christian and a happy member of the UCC, I find that I feel compelled to reach out to all my neighbors in love. As a Christian, I am grateful for my funky and diverse religious journey. I will never forget the peace of that Tu B’Shevat Seder, or the peace of Old South’s evening service. It all matters to my life, and interreligious dialogue lights a fire of passion in me like nothing else.